Giving up the ghosts

Written by Laura Roddy | Photography by David Don Wallace Jr., Visual Fusion

On any given day, real estate agent Sherrie Curry may be touring a house, checking for upgrades or evaluating the floor plan. But on Saturday nights, she is more apt to be in a house hooking up night vision video cameras, audio recorders and electromagnetic field meters.

Curry, a married 45-year-old, serves as director of operations for the Wichita Paranormal Research Society, a group of 12 members who volunteer their time hunting for ghosts free of charge. Typically, the group investigates every Saturday night, and a typical investigation lasts around four hours, not including all the follow-up time spent logging the video and audio.

“First of all, we look for logical explanations,” Curry says. “I’m always a skeptical believer.” And there’s always a little legwork before launching any investigation. The group first requires people to fill out a form detailing the unexplainable phenomena they have experienced. The next step is for a case manager to ask the person some medical and psychological questions – seeking to weed out instances of mental illness or prescription side effects.

Curry became fascinated by the paranormal in late 2007 when a friend shared an EVP – paranormal investigator lingo for an electronic voice phenomenon, noises or words that are not detectable by the human ear but that are picked up on digital recorders. She went out on her first investigation in January 2008 and recorded her first EVP. Curry has been hooked on the ghost hunt ever since.

“Ninety-eight percent of evidence comes through as an EVP,” she says. “It’s very rare to capture actual paranormal activity.” In fact, the Wichita team has identified only two photos and two videos that are possible evidence of the paranormal.

The Wichita Paranormal Research Society is a hot commodity in October. Members often lead classes about ghost hunting at area libraries and recreation centers. The best way to find out more, Curry says, is through the group’s website, ksparanormalresearchsociety.com.

Top Wichita Haunts

This time of year, various groups stage are haunted houses galore, but why not check out some of these haunts? The Wichita Paranormal Research Society shares its top three publicly accessible spots for potential supernatural encounters:

The Orpheum and the Hippie Ghost

Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre opened in 1922 and serves as an example of the atmospheric school of theater design, creating the feel of a Spanish courtyard with its ornamental plaster moldings, arched doorways and illusion of the open sky.

It hosted 17,000 vaudeville acts in its day and continues to offer concerts to this day. Even when there’s not an event The Orpheum is still occupied by spirits.

“You can hear footsteps walking down the stairs to the dressing area,” she says. Up on the balcony, Curry says, she has had her hair tugged and felt fingers run down the backs of her legs. There is a particular apparition there to whom Curry refers to as the Hippie Ghost.

“I call her the Hippie Ghost because she says ‘peace’ after she touches me,” she says.

Most encounters are friendly, not scary. “We tend to misinterpret,” Curry says. “Normally if there actually truly is something paranormal going on, they just want acknowledged.”

Historical Museum’s Soda Fountain Voices

The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum is housed in Wichita’s Old City Hall, built in 1892. The Wichita Paranormal Research Society counts Jami Frazier Tracy, the museum’s curator of collections, as its group historian, which is helpful as ghost hunters try to tie particular ghosts and apparitions to actual people and legendary spooky stories. Still, it’s pretty tall order because records generally do not usually include specific details of where in a building or home a person died.

Tracy has worked at the museum since 1990 and had experienced some unexplained activity. “I’ve heard things,” Tracy says. “I’ve felt things.” For a time, she ignored it, saying she just didn’t want to think about the possibility of the paranormal. Eventually, her interest was piqued, and she pursued a paranormal investigation of the museum. “I was surprised at the number of EVPs we’ve received at the museum over the years,” she says.

Paranormal investigators recommend hanging around the 1910 drugstore soda fountain for the best chance of a paranormal encounter.

Cowtown: Love ‘n’ Tangle and the Shadow Man

Maybe it’s all the old buildings, or maybe it’s just a fun place to be, but Curry says many people have experienced the paranormal at Old Cowtown Museum, Wichita’s living history museum of life in the 1870s. It’s not uncommon to hear unexplained footsteps or feel an invisible touch, particularly at the Murdock House or the DeVore Farmhouse.

Tracy says there have been many reports of people hearing a little girl’s voice in the Murdock House. This is one instance where she is able to key into to historical fact. Love ‘n’ Tangle Murdock, the 8-year-old daughter of Wichita Eagle founder Marshall Murdock, died in the home of spinal meningitis in 1883.

Visitors also should keep their eyes peeled for the Shadow Man. “He’s very elusive,” Curry says. “He’s very, very tall. Random people will see him leaning up against a tree or building.” Next thing they know, she says, they look over and he has vanished, sometimes with a poof of smoke.

 
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